Steve Yzerman has been named the new general manager and executive vice president of the Detroit Red Wings, the team announced Friday.
For many in Detroit, the announcement amounted to a great Friday and Yzerman’s return to the Motor City is an “about time” moment.
Indeed, Stevie Y’s return to the Red Wings was almost always an inevitability. And when he stepped down as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in September of 2018, things seemed to be falling into place. The reasoning at the time was that Yzerman wanted to spend more time with his family, but his family never left Detroit.
The Red Wings have been looking for something – anything, really – to give their organization a boost for years now. The team has missed the playoffs for three straight seasons, their worst run since the “Dead Wings” era of the early 1980s during which the club gave away cars at home games.
Yzerman could be just the ticket for what ails the Red Wings now, as this is a team in the midst of a rebuild but with a need for some sense of moral direction.
Ken Holland, who stepped into the role of senior vice president after finishing his 22nd season as general manager, has been doing his part. The Red Wings have a pile of draft picks and a youthful core, which is where Yzerman comes in.
“I think there’s a good foundation in place in players like Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Filip Hronek,” said Yzerman. “You need players like that to build the core you need to reach the higher levels. Kenny has also accumulated a lot of draft picks, and it will be imperative that we draft well, but we already have some promising prospect…We also have an excellent young coach in Jeff Blashill.”
According to Red Wings president Chris Ilitch, the Lightning gave Detroit permission to talk to Yzerman in March.
Yzerman, who spent his entire playing career with the Red Wings, went into management as soon as he retired from the game. Holland was his mentor and he served as the vice president of hockey operations for Detroit, winning a Stanley Cup in 2008 before departing to join Tampa’s front office.
“Steve literally transformed the organization’s hockey operations, from our professional and amateur scouting departments to the front office to our coaching and locker room staffs, to our major and minor league rosters,” Lightning chairman Jeff Vinik said. “He built one of the finest organizations in the NHL and led us to the playoffs in six of the nine years he was with us, including three conference finals and one Stanley Cup Final.”
For the Red Wings, there is a sense that this was always meant to be.
Detroit, finishing two dozen points behind the Blue Jackets for the second wild card spot, has to be hoping that this signals the beginning of a new era – the sort of era where two of the finest minds in hockey, Yzerman and Holland, can build a winning organization once more.
(Photo credit: Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/TNS)